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Music Musique

French and American Piano Composition in the Jazz Age

Barbara Meister

Publication Year: 2006

Music Musique is a study of American and French composers active in the late 19th through early 20th centuries and the influence of jazz on their compositional styles. Starting with a look at the formation of American and French styles of composition, Meister discusses the jazz influence on American composers such as Ives, Copland, and Seeger, and their reception in France. She then takes a parallel look at the jazz influence on prominent French composers such as Ravel, Milhaud, and Messiaen, with a conclusion that briefly outlines post--World War II musical developments.

Considerable attention is paid to the social and political worlds in which these artists lived and created. Of particular interest is the community of Afro-American jazz musicians who settled in Paris after World War I, and their influence on the likes of Ravel, Milhaud, Satie, and other artists with New Orleans--based styles. Meister also discusses the more famous coteries of American writers who lived and worked in Paris during the 1920s and 1930s. The stories of these two groups of Americans in Paris form a fascinating background to the main topic of the book.

Music Musique is intended for amateurs and experts alike; it provides ideas about repertoire as well as information about compositions that are likely to be heard in performance. The emphasis of the text is always on the piano solo literature or other piano music -- song accompaniments, piano duets, or internal orchestral piano parts.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Title Page

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pp. xi

I should like to thank the editors at Indiana University Press, Gayle Sherwood and Suzanne Ryan, who helped formulate and define the scope of this book. I should also like to express my appreciation to Caitlin Greer Meister, whose computer skills and intelligent overview of the information...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-3

Two disasters struck France in 1870. The first was the Franco- Prussian War, a catastrophe whose effects on European geopolitical balances were felt for generations. Under Napoleon III and his ravishing redheaded empress Eugénie, France enjoyed glittering balls and apparent prosperity. Paris was gradually being transformed into the city of...

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2. The Formation of a French Style of Composition

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pp. 4-19

The end of the Franco-Prussian War brought with it the end of both monarchy and empire as viable forms of government for the French. Despite the upheavals of World Wars I and II, the concept of republic, although not the newly formed Third Republic itself, was permanently established in France. The First Republic had been created after the...

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3. The Formation of an American Style of Composition

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pp. 20-33

Like France, late-nineteenth-century America was consciously trying to forge a national cultural identity.1 No war with a foreign foe precipitated this quest, but as France was emerging from its defeat at the hands of the Prussian army, America was recovering from the farbloodier Civil War that had brought with it fratricide and the assassination...

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4. A Brief History of Jazz in America

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pp. 34-42

As befits a type of music as iconoclastic as jazz, just about everything one can say about it—from its origins to its very definition—is a subject of controversy. To some, jazz and improvisation are synonymous and you can't have one without the other, while to those who disagree, the written arrangements of Duke Ellington or Fletcher...

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5. American Composers in the 1920s, Part I

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pp. 43-57

The four most important events of the early 1920s in the United States in the development of classical music on these shores centered around compositions of Charles Ives, Igor Stravinsky, George Gershwin, and Aaron Copland. The year 1921 brought the long-delayed publication of Ives's monumental Piano Sonata No. 2, Concord. His most...

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6. American Composers in the 1920s, Part II

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pp. 58-70

Charles Tomlinson Griffes lived and worked just at the cusp of our study, from 1884 to 1920. Despite his quiet life as a teacher at Hackley, a private boys' preparatory school, and his tragically premature death at the age of thirty-five, this New York–born composer had begun to make a serious impression on America's musical world, especially with his...

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7. The Harlem Renaissance

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pp. 71-79

The end of World War I saw a burst of creativity in the arts and sciences all over the Western world, and the United States participated fully in that surge of individual achievement. Poets Ezra Pound and Vachel Lindsay; novelists F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edith Wharton, Ernest Hemingway, and Sinclair Lewis; playwrights Eugene O'Neill and Maxwell...

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8. America in the 1930s

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pp. 80-90

And then, with a crash heard 'round the world, it all came tumbling down—the New York stock market debacle began in October 1929. The 1920s had been a period of jubilation over the successful conclusion of World War I, supposedly the war to end all wars. In addition to the emotional relief, there was an economic surge and, at...

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9. Paris in the 1920s, Part I

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pp. 91-105

While the mood in the years immediately following World War I ranged from relief to euphoria in the United States, feelings in France were mixed. There had been many American casualties once the troops landed in Europe, but four years of horrifying battles and endless trench warfare between the French and German armies had cost an...

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10. Paris in the 1920s, Part II

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pp. 106-120

Upon Milhaud's return from Brazil, his Paris apartment became a frequent Saturday night meeting place for his group of friends to exchange their newly written music and poetry. Following these intimate weekly recitals, the group would remove themselves to dinner at some neighborhood bistro. Milhaud soon reconnected with another old...

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11. Edgar Varèse and Igor Stravinsky

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pp. 121-130

No one exemplifies the intertwining of French and American music better than Edgar (sometimes spelled Edgard) Varèse. He was born in Paris in 1883, and after many transatlantic comings and goings he settled in New York City, where he died in 1965. For most of his adult life he felt himself to be a quintessential New Yorker, and loved his...

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12. Paris in the 1930s

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pp. 131-139

Olivier Messiaen's Vingt regards sur l'enfant Jésus (Twenty gazes on the infant Jesus) is widely considered the most important composition for piano solo of the first half of the twentieth century. The work lasts about two hours and ten minutes, and was not premiered until 1944. However, like that of two other major works involving piano by Messiaen...

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13. Epilogue-Envoi

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pp. 140-142

In an art form as dependent on continuity as music, all dates are often more or less arbitrary. Because of the particular situations in France and the United States, 1870, as I have explained, seemed a logical place to begin this study. But using World War II as a cutoff point is merely a matter of convenience, for musical life continued in France and America...


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pp. 143-150


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pp. 151-153


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pp. 155-163

E-ISBN-13: 9780253112347
E-ISBN-10: 0253112346
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253346087

Page Count: 184
Publication Year: 2006